Monday, February 02, 2015

Rick Orlov - One LA's Last Great Local Reporters, Died Today.

When I first became involved in civic life, one of the first reporters to call me was Rick Orlov of the Los Angeles Daily News. His call was supposedly about the LADWP agreement the neighborhood councils had just begun to negotiate, but the real purpose  was for him introduce himself to me and to let me know he was always open to talking with anyone who was committed to making LA a better place to live.  He also turned out to know a lot more about me than any reporter based in the San Fernando Valley should have bothered to have known. 

So that first call told me a lot about Rick; that he always did his homework and that he had a genuine interest in knowing what was happening in his city and in getting to know a wide range of people throughout this city.  And I can not offer any new reporter any better advice on how to become a great city reporter.  

Below is the Daily News article on Rick's untimely passing.

Daily News City Hall reporter Rick Orlov seen speaking at the Valley Interfaith Council Spirit of VIC Awards dinner on May 19, 2011, at the Sheraton Universal Hotel, died Monday, Feb. 2, 2015, at age 66. (File photo by Michael Owen Baker/Los Angeles Daily News)
Rick Orlov, a veteran Los Angeles Daily News reporter who covered local politics for almost 30 years and who became known as the dean of the City Hall press corps, died Monday after complications of diabetes.
He was 66.
News of his death swept through the city of Los Angeles as top officials, journalists and friends remembered Orlov for his fair portrayal of the ins and outs of local politics, his Tipoff column, which became a must-read for City Hall politicians, and his mild manner that earned him respect, even among those he held accountable for wrongdoing.
Born on April 12, 1948, in Chicago, Richard H. Orlov lived in Indianapolis as a young boy and moved to Encino with his family when he was 12. A graduate of Birmingham High School where he was a competitive swimmer, Orlov earned a degree in journalism at what is now Cal State Northridge. Orlov always wanted to be a journalist, his sister Joanne Levy said.
He began working at the Los Angeles Daily News in 1978. After a few years as an assistant city editor, Orlov requested to be moved back to a reporting position. He returned to cover local politics in 1988.
“Rick was a rare human being whose strength of character defined him in a way that engendered deep respect from anyone who knew him,” said Michael Anastasi, vice president and executive editor of the Los Angeles News Group. “He cared about his craft, he cared about his colleagues, and he cared about his city. He was as passionate about journalism as anyone I’ve ever met, and he always knew it wasn’t about him — it was always, always about the reader.”
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said in a statement that City Hall was in mourning.
“We are devastated by Rick’s passing,” Garcetti said. “Rick was a true pro — on the record, he was fair and tough; off the record, he was frank and told it like it was. Rick, the dean of the City Hall press corps, was so much more than a journalist. He was a mentor to young reporters, a counselor to elected officials, and a friend to us all. He will be missed. City Hall will never be the same.”
City Council members rarely visit the press rooms located behind City Hall’s third-floor chambers, but politicians routinely came by to talk to Orlov in person.
“He was a wonderful, caring man,” said Councilman Tom LaBonge. “His door was always open.”
City Council President Herb Wesson said he planned to introduce a motion Tuesday to name the media room behind City Council chambers in Orlov’s memory.
“This will be a fitting memorial for someone who gave so much to journalism and to our city,” Wesson said.
Former Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, who sat on the City Council from 1975 to 1994, said he couldn’t remember a time when Orlov was not a political reporter. Orlov was soft-spoken and a man of few words, and he paid attention to what he said and what he wrote, Yaroslavksy said.
“His information was always gold,” Yaroslavsky said. “I never had a time when I quibbled with the accuracy of his reporting. When Rick Orlov said something, whether you looked good or not, it was accurate.”
Yaroslavsky and journalists said it was Orlov who hosted a friendly gathering every Friday after 5 p.m. in his Los Angeles City Hall office, including politicians and reporters socializing over gin and vodka.
“He loved people,” Yaroslavksy said. “He had a great sense of humor. “When he called you out, it wasn’t mean-spirited. At the end of the day, he was a decent human being. Everyone who knew him considered him a friend.”
Longtime Daily News columinst Dennis McCarthy said sources always went to Orlov to make sure their side was told fairly.
“He was one of the most prolific and loved reporters at the paper,” McCarthy said. “He was the go-to guy. To say he’s going to be missed is not enough. He was the heart and soul of the newspaper for a lot of readers for a number of years. Sources always went to him because they new he would give them a fair shake.”
“Rick Orlov was kind, thorough and the consummate professional,” said Carolina Garcia, senior editor of the Daily News. “He was a bellwether for many of us, reminding us about doing the right thing. “
Journalists often sought out Orlov for advice and support. Channel 2 reporter Linda Breakstone was one of Orlov’s best friends. The two met in 1978 during the statewide campaign to pass Proposition 13, and the two talked nearly every week, she said. Breakstone said he was a father figure to young reporters at City Hall.
“He kind of took care of everyone,” she said.
Longtime journalist John Schwada worked in the City Hall press offices for 15 years, reporting for the Herald-Examiner and the Los Angeles Times. He called Orlov “one of the last of the city’s great beat reporters.”
“He covered City Hall and politics with wit and wisdom. No one had his institutional memory or contacts,” Schwada said.
Levy, Orlov’s sister, said there was no other job her brother wanted. His dedication was rewarded in 2011 when he won the Los Angeles Press Club’s Quinn Award for lifetime achievement. He also won numerous awards from California journalism associations.
“He had a career he loved,” Levy said. “I know that he was very well-respected by local politicians. We were all proud of him. It was nice to see that side of his life, how respected he was and how he knew everybody in the city.”
During the ceremony, he was called the most respected and well-liked reporter in Los Angeles. Orlov covered five mayors and five governors. He jetted around the world and even negotiated the surrender of a murder suspect.
Orlov was writing about a gruesome murder involving the Israeli Mafia, and one of the fugitive suspects called him, and negotiated a deal. Orlov was able to get a 20-minute interview and a deal that the suspect would surrender to police. LAPD officers on the scene tried to take the suspect right away, but Orlov called then-Assistant Chief Daryl Gates, who ordered his cops to back off, saying a deal is a deal. Orlov got his interview.
Orlov’s last story about a City Council race appeared in Monday’s Daily News.
Orlov is survived by his sister Joanne, her husband, and two nieces and one nephew, and three great nephews and one great niece.
A public memorial will be held at Levy’s home at 2 p.m. Thursday at 502 N. Elm Drive, Beverly Hills.
A separate public memorial for Orlov also is being planned by the Daily News. Details will be announced soon.

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